Jan Wagner, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, launched his professional conducting career after winning first prize at the 1995 Nicolai Malko International Conductors Competition in Denmark. In 2002 he completed a five-year tenure as principal conductor of the Odense Symphony Orchestra in Denmark, which he led in more than 200 performances conducting more than 200 different works both on subscription concerts and on two separate tours to the United States and Spain.
Simultaneous with his appointment in Denmark, Wagner regularly conducted the Danish National Radio Symphony, the Danish Radio Sinfonietta (including two tours to Paris and Sweden), the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the Helsinki Philharmonic and the Danish Royal Theater as well as most of the principal Danish and Scandinavian orchestras. Other notable orchestras he has worked with include the Royal Philharmonic, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Stuttgart Radio Symphony, the Hannover Radio Symphony, the Halle Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Symphony, the West Australian Symphony (Perth) and the Melbourne Symphony.
In North and South America, Wagner has appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Jacksonville Symphony, the Aspen Festival Orchestra and the Aspen Chamber Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Minnesota Opera on a U.S. tour of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the U.N.A.M in Mexico City and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. He has also been a regular guest conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela, the country's national symphony orchestra between 1998 and 2010. In December of 2021 he returns for another collaboration with the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra and Virginia Regional Ballet for several performances of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker at the Ferguson Center for the Arts. In May 2017 Jan Wagner made his conducting debut with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra (ASO) as part of its Masterwork Series and was re-invited to conduct another Masterwork Series concert in April 2018. He returns to the ASO in March 2022 to conduct works by Prokofiev, Mozart and Mendelssohn.
Throughout his career Wagner has collaborated with many distinguished artists such as clarinetists Richard Stolzman and Sabine Meyer; singers Anna Larsson, Bo Skovhus and Yvonne Kenny; cellists Ralph Kirshbaum, David Geringas and Andrés Díaz; violist Nobuko Imai; pianists John Browning, Ivan Moravec, Grigory Sokolov, Andrei Gavrilov, Nikolai Demidenko, Vanessa Perez and John O’Conor; violinists Mark Kaplan, Arve Tellefsen, Kristof Barati and Anne Akiko Meyers; and trumpeters Håkan Hardenberger, Jens Lindemann and Wynton Marsalis.
Contemporary composers with whom Wagner has collaborated include Danish composers Poul Ruders (world premiere performance and recording of his Guitar Concerto), Per Nørgård, Anders Nordentoft; and American composers William Bolcom, Kevin Puts, Richard Wilson, Jennifer Higdon, John Corigliano and Joseph Schwantner. The 2014/15 season brought about a collaboration with Wynton Marsalis as part of the world premiere performance of the complete Blues Symphony at the Strathmore Music Center with the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra. In April 2021 Jan Wagner will join Shenandoah Conservatory Assistant Professor of Trumpet Mary Elizabeth Bowden in a performance of Vivian Fung’s Trumpet Concerto co-commissioned by the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra and eight other orchestras throughout the United States.
Wagner has also been very active recording for labels such as Denon (Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Debussy's L'apres-midi d'un faune – DVD audio), DaCapo (works by Paul von Klenau which received a Danish Grammy nomination), Classico (world premiere of Poulenc’s Les animaux modele), Bridge Records (world premiere of Poul Ruders’ Guitar Concerto, works by Ginastera, Villa-Lobos, including the world premiere of Villa-Lobos’ ballet Emperor Jones, and Carl Nielsen’s Violin Concerto), Silverline (Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben and Vier letzte Lieder – DVD audio) and Danacord (Mussorgsky-Ravel’s Pictures at an Exhibition). In 2010, Wagner initiated a long-term project with the Naxos label and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela to launch a new series called Latin-American Classics which will feature symphonic works by leading Venezuelan composers from the twentieth century. The first CD featuring works by Evencio Castellanos was released in January 2012.
Jan Wagner currently holds the position of Director of Orchestral Studies and Professor of Conducting at Shenandoah University where he serves as the artistic director and conductor of the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra (SCSO) with which he has undertaken two international tours to Spain (Zaragoza, Castellón, Murcia and Granada) and Argentina (Córdoba, Paraná, Rosario and Buenos Aires). In May 2022, the SCSO undertakes its third international tour Chile with performances in the cities of Valparaiso, Santiago and Chillan. He also serves as the music director of the school's fully staged opera productions.
He is a graduate of the Academy of Music in Vienna, Austria, where he completed his studies with Karl Österreicher and Günther Theuring. He has furthered his studies with Murry Sidlin and Lawrence Foster as a Fellow Conductor at the Aspen Music Festival and has participated in master classes with John Nelson, Leonard Slatkin and James Conlon.
Following his studies, he was the top-prize winner at the 1994 Leopold Stokowski International Conducting Competition in New York and was the recipient of the 1994 Conducting Prize at the Aspen Music Festival. He has also served as assistant conductor/vocal coach to John DeMain at Houston Grand Opera, to Lawrence Foster at the Aspen Music Festival, assistant/apprentice conductor under Edo de Waart and the Minnesota Orchestra and as assistant/cover conductor to Kurt Masur at the New York Philharmonic.